Thursday, April 24, 2008

Writing is the cure

A friend posed a dilemma about writing and here is what I said to her (which she said was fine to post here, for others to hopefully benefit from):

There does come a point when you (a writer, any writer) finds themselves at the point you find yourself at. Is it worth it? Is the self-disclosure worth raking through the muck of the past and putting it on paper, making art out of it? Is art worth it? Is it productive? Isn't cleaning a closet more productive?

What I didn't say last night, which I ought to have said, and if it's okay with you, I'll post this on my blog so I can say it! is, if there's something else you enjoy more than writing, then maybe you *should* give it up.

In my view, you're a writer. Sure you like other things, too, but you like writing and gain something from doing it. But that may just be my view.

I have considered over the years, at different points, giving it up. But when I ask myself, does anything do more for you, the answer has always been no. I love to knit, I love handicrafts. I studied music for a few years and played the flute. I was involved in the performing arts, and photography. But I always felt--and still do--that something was missing without working on a piece of writing.

Writing is the hardest thing I've ever done. Sure, brain surgery would be harder, but then again, I don't want to be a brain surgeon. And my guess is that for some brain surgeons, writing would be damn hard.

No one can tell you that you should be writing. No amount of strokes or encouragement can make you write every day if you simply don't want to.

But my guess is that if you write a bit every day, you'll want to. You'll work a groove in the brain and in your creative self that will draw you back to your pen and paper, or computer, most days. So much of writing is very much a habit. Like any habit, if you fall away from it, you might think, whatever made me think I liked that habit?

Anyway, only you know what writing does for you, and doesn't do for you. I do know that I've seen your excitement when you were working on a piece that excited you.

I know your friend discouraged you by telling you one of your pieces wasn't in your voice. Voice can take a long time to get to. It takes throwing a lot of words at the page. It truly does. You try out different styles, different tones, different ways of using words, and in this way, voice comes.

Writers need to stop thinking so much--about how we're no good, how we're frauds, how we'll never write anything of substance--and just write. Writing is the cure.


Anonymous said...

Writing is a lousy way of making a living but a wonderful way to live.

Jim Murdoch said...

There were a couple of years in the early nineties when I wrote nothing. Up until that point I'd only ever written poetry. I'd been used to periods of inactivity before but as the weeks started to turn into months I started to suspect that I'd dried up for good. Ah well, I'd had a good run, written some decent poem and a couple of bloody brilliant poems and these things happen.

The thing is I didn't recognise the guy I saw in the mirror. All my life I'd seen a poet looking back at me but now who the hell was this guy? There were other things I could do. But these were hobbies, things to pass the time. They weren't me. It's easy to give up things like that.

If you're in an accident and have to lose a limb then you grin and bear it. That's life. But to voluntarily give up a part of you is something I should have to think about for some time.

I've been discouraged by people's comments in the past. It happens. The thing is, if I gave up my writing, if I allowed that part of me to be chopped off, would it make these people happy? Would it have a positive effect? Would it make the world a better place? No. Most of the people who have made disparaging remarks about my work have put very little thought into their criticisms. They were off-the-cuff remarks and I'm sure if you asked them a day or two later they wouldn't even remember what it was of mine they read. You don't lop of a part of who you are for the likes of individuals like that.

Sure writing can sometimes feet like a club foot. It's something that other people don't have and you have to learn to lug it around with you but it's your club foot. What would you be like if you had it replaced? You'd have an artificial foot. And okay when you went out no one would know, your shoe would hide the fact, but you would know. And isn't that all that matters?